We'll celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and legacy next week. In these angry and divisive times, we all could benefit by reminding ourselves of his words' truth, civility and wisdom.
Too many of us are consumed with hatred and anger, which have reared their ugly heads in our public discourse lately. Dr. King, who endured hatred so ugly and excessive that it led to his assassination, spoke often of the futility of hating anyone or anything - of how hating harms the hater than the hated: ,
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that."
"I have decided to stick to love ... . Hate is too great a burden to bear."
"Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."
Our political leaders' courage has always been in regrettably short supply. If only those leaders - who are more concerned with partisan interests than with our country's many challenges - would heed these words from Dr. King:,
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."
"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."
Pride, the worst of the seven deadly sins, blinds us and holds us back. Dr. King taught us that forgiveness is the way to defeat pride:,
"Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude."
"Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again."
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
Something my father did in the military in the 1950s still makes me proud. He was raised in Pittsburgh in an era when he had limited interaction with the African-American community. In the Army, however, he became best friends with an African-American who was being harassed by another fellow solely because of his skin color.,
My father, a large, powerful man, used his fists to put an end to the harassment. His friend went on to become a physician. My father says of him, "He was the finest man I ever met."
Dr. King understood that each of us walks the same path - that only a lack of good communication is holding us back:,
"People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other."
Dr. King's dream was that his "four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
My dream is that one day, we'll get there - that one day, we'll realize Dr. King's wisdom, fully embrace it and act on it, fulfilling his dream and America's promise of equality for all.
Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc.